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Leading Lights in Indiana History Through Writing from Hawthorne Publishing: A two-part award announcement to a small Hoosier town for its laudable publishing effort!

We really believe the Winchester educational and town effort in producing nationally-achieving graduates of its high school spotlights Indiana villages and small metropolis centers at their best.

We at Hawthorne are proud to be putting out this second volume of Golden Graduates of Winchester High School: A Small Indiana Town’s Remarkable Achievement.

We’ve asked the active high school alumni association in the town in the town of about 5,000 residents in Randolph County, authors of the volumes, to talk about the book for our “Leading Lights through Writing” in Indiana series.

Here is Part I of what they write:

“Golden Graduates of Winchester High School:  A Small Indiana Town’s Remarkable Achievement” is the title of a hardback book released in 2018 by the Winchester High School Alumni Association and published by Hawthorne Publishing Company. The book contains the first 30 profiles of the “Golden Graduate” series originally published in the Winchester News-Gazette newspaper. The profiles in the book span nearly 100 years, from 1881 to 1979.

The project was spearheaded by three outstanding WHS graduates themselves: Dr. G. Daly Walker, who edited Golden Graduates, is a 1958 graduate who went on to have a distinguished career as a battalion surgeon during the Vietnam War and later established a successful surgical practice in Columbus, Indiana. Dr. Daly is now an author and teaches a fiction writer’s workshop at Dartmouth College; Patricia Knasinski, a 1961 graduate and long-time Winchester Community High School Spanish teacher turned author, who served as President of the Winchester High School Alumni Association; and, Sandra Walker Kelly, a 1957 graduate of Winchester High School, who went on to become founding editor of the Mid-American Journal of Business, (today the American Journal of Business), long-time Special Assistant to Ball State University’s former President, John Worthen, and former Executive Director of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra.

These three authors, along with submissions by other graduates, captured the stories of 30 remarkable students of Winchester High School who came from a community of less than 5,000 residents. This high school has produced an array of successful graduates who not only made significant contributions to Winchester and Indiana, but often to the nation and even internationally. This book, and its intended successor, Volume II, highlight these graduates’ accomplishments. It also attempts to explain briefly how this small community, originally established after the turn of the 19th Century by members of The Society of Friends (Quakers), Methodists, and Presbyterians, created such an environment to have produced such outstanding individuals.

Winchester High School, Winchester, Indiana. On April 24, 1898, a fire that originated in the chemistry department burned the old Winchester High School to the ground. The picture above is of the high school that replaced it in the fall of 1899, which was constructed for $15,337. The school was renamed “Lee L. Driver High School” in 1959 and remained so until 1966 when it became known as “Winchester Community High School” as a result of further consolidation of county schools. In 1967, a new high school


During the span of 75 years, from 1875 to 1950, only 1,828 students graduated from Winchester High School. Yet, among their ranks were dozens, possibly hundreds, of classmates who went on to achieve remarkable things. Just a few of these distinguished graduates include:

  • James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s 29th governor who established the Indiana state park system and the departments of conservation, banking, commerce, and highways. Known as Indiana’s “War Governor”, his one term in office, 1917 to 1921, coincided with World War I. Goodrich later became U.S. envoy to the Soviet Union, where he met Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, among others, in a herculean effort to stem the great Soviet famine of 1921-1923. His efforts ultimately helped save the lives of millions of Russian peasants. 1881 WHS graduate.
  • James E. Watson, who served as Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives (1903-1909) and Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate (1929 to 1933). Watson was one of the most colorful figures to ever serve in Congress. He narrowly lost his bid to serve as Indiana’s governor in 1908, being defeated by Thomas Marshall, who later served two terms as Vice President of the U.S. Watson also ran for President of the United States in 1928 against Herbert Hoover. 1881 WHS graduate.

John R. Commons, a 1881 classmate of both James Goodrich and James Watson, he was one of the most influential economists of the 20th Century. His groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin led to the establishment of the Social Security system, Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and an examination of the Labor movement in America and the inner workings of the U.S. Federal Reserve Banking system. Commons served as President of the American Economic Society. Today the “John R. Commons Award” is given biannually by the International Honor Society for Economics to a top economist. In prestige within the profession, it is second only to the Nobel Prize in Economics. 1881 WHS graduate.


(More in Part II)